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Weeks after a U.S. army private bolted across the demarcation line dividing South Korea from its hostile neighbor, North Korea claims the soldier defected because he was disillusioned with inequality and racial discrimination in the American military.
North Korea’s state-run news agency, KCNA, claimed Private 2nd Class Travis King intentionally defected from the U.S. military and harbored “ill feelings against inhuman mistreatment and racial discrimination within the U.S. Army,” according to a Wednesday report from the Associated Press.
King, who was facing potential military discipline after being detained in a South Korean jail on sexual assault charges, bolted into the North Korean side on July 18 when he was supposed to board a plane heading to Texas.
“I just want my son back. Get my son home. Get my son home. Pray that he comes back,” King’s mother, Claudine Gates, told reporters.
North Korea and South Korea remain technically at war after signing an Armistice agreement following the Korean War in the 1950s. While South Korea has become a global economic and cultural hub, North Korea remains a dictatorship which criticizes the U.S. as an evil empire.
North Korea claims soldier defected, expert calls it propaganda
Analysts remarking on the rare statement from North Korea regarding King say it’s nothing but propaganda.
“This is 100% North Korean propaganda in its element,” said former CIA analyst Soo Kim. “King, as an American citizen held in North Korea, has no sway in how the DPRK chooses to cast its narrative.”
King’s disappearance comes at a time of heightened tensions between North Korea and the U.S. He’s the first American detained in North Korea in nearly five years.
It’s unclear whether or when North Korea will attempt to use King’s disappearance as a bargaining chip to push the U.S. to remove its military presence from South Korea. Meanwhile, North Korea has labeled King’s entry into its territory as “illegal.”
U.S. officials have expressed concern for King but have shared few details about their efforts to bring him home.